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Christian Unity: Ten Key Principles

Author: Charles Whitehead

Picture: Shutterstock

Christian Unity: Ten Key Principles

A commitment to working for Christian unity is a special calling for many in CCR. Charles Whitehead offers ten principles to guide us in important ecumenical work.

1. Accept one another as brothers and sisters in Christ.

The Church reminds us that, through our shared baptism, we are already in relationship and we need to recognize this and banish the old stereotypes, stopping criticising each other.

2.  Be faithful to who you are and be sure about your Church teaching.

We need to know why we are Catholic, what we believe, and be faithful to it. Whilst we accept that all those who are justified by faith and incorporated into Christ by baptism are to be properly regarded as our brothers and sisters, we believe that the Church of Jesus Christ subsists in its fullness in the Catholic Church.

3. Remember that, while there are important differences between us, more unites us than separates us.

Whilst we cannot pretend that important differences do not exist or do not matter, we should begin by concentrating on those things on which we agree – they are many! Sometimes the problem is that we have a different way of saying the same things, so let’s always look at what is meant rather than at how it is expressed.

4. Repent together for our differences – forgive and ask forgiveness.

Examining our hearts, recognising our faults and seeking forgiveness from the Lord and from each other: these present a deep challenge to all of us ( Pope John Paul II, Ut Unum Sint, section 82).

 

5. Listen and learn what others believe and why.

No relationship will grow unless both parties are willing to listen. Listening shows respect and helps us to understand why others have different beliefs. We don’t have to agree with them, but it’s important that we understand them.

6. Build and protect personal relationships.

We need to get to know each other well, to support and encourage one another, and to stand up for each other when we are attacked by those opposed to what we are doing.

7. Accept that there is a healthy tension between love and truth, but remember that love is the authentic sign of true Christianity.

We will not make any progress without love, because only in love can we together search for the truth.

8. Recognise that there’s a price to be paid when working for unity.

There will be many difficulties and misunderstandings on the journey. At times it will be very painful and we’ll feel like turning back. We must accept that there’s a price to be paid.

 

9. Do together as much as we can in good conscience, thereby giving public witness to our shared faith; never forget that Jesus prayed for unity among his followers. 

We are called to “every possible form of practical co-operation at all levels: pastoral, cultural and social, as well as that of witnessing to the Gospel message” (Ut Unum Sint section 40) So we must pray as if it all depends on God, whilst working together as if it all depends on us.

 10 .  Finally, never forget that Jesus and the Father want unity and that it is a work of the Holy Spirit.

So prayer remains the most important activity. As we pray together, our respect for one another grows, as does our shared concern for unity. From this will flow true ecumenical  co-operation in the areas of promoting Gospel values, meeting needs, challenging  injustice, and demonstrating mutual respect with a willingness to listen and to dialogue.  Then the witness we give will speak loudly to the society in which we live and will support our  shared proclamation of the basic Gospel message.

 
Pray as if it all depends on God and work as if it all depends on you! We are not responsible for the actions and reactions of other people, but we are responsible for our own actions and reactions. We must each do everything we can to build Christian unity under the guidance of the Holy Spirit and in accordance with Church teaching.
 
  • This is an extract from Charles Whitehead's booklet, Love One Another. To purchase a copy at £3, visit the Goodnews books website.

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